Adamantium, Stronger Than Steel: The Story Behind Wolverine’s Claws and New New New Materials

by Irma Arkus

If you’ve been watching the “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” perhaps you’ve left the theatre wondering: what is adamantium, the indestructable metal Logan seems to be covered with head-to-toe? What is this strange substance that can destroy anything, and more importantly, where can I get some?

Adamantium is actually a fictional metal. The strange alloy used to make Wolverine indestructable is an alloy found strewn across the comic books. While the comics do explain that the creation of the alloy is a metallurgic creation, patented by a US scientists and kept under lock and key by Pentagon, the idea of Adamantium, the real stuff, has been on the minds of scientists for a while.

We all know that real women and men of science are pretty geeky, and tend to read this blog, and listen to HiSciFi…but I digress. My point is that most scientists have been fantasizing about creating just such an alloy. Over the years, we have been experimenting with variety of metals that would make steel look weak in comparison, and superfluous by consumer standards to boot.

Today, for example, scientists at Indiana University have confirmed that neutron star crusts are 10 billion times stronger than steel.

According to Charles Horowitz, the large-scale molecular dynamics computer simulations revealed the strange dynamic of neutron stars. As they are only slightly less dense than black holes, a teaspoon of the neutron crust “stuff,” should weigh about 100 tons.

These remarkable, sturdy and ultra strong neutron stars are so heavy that the ridges and surface irregularities have the ability to radiate gravitational waves, and suspectedly, may create ripples in space/time.

Neutron star glory aside, spiders are amazing!!!

Spider silk has long been touted as the stuff stronger than steel. But turning it into something that can resemble a vest, or a tank, tends to be little harder.

Recent research into spider silk by Kraig Biocraft Laboratories has made it an even tougher substance. Apparently, using “atomic layer deposition” process, in other words, adding minute amounts of metal to spider silk would make it even stronger than the regular spider silk.

Spider mutants anyone?

The addition of metals, such as zinc, titanium or aluminum to spider silk, makes the silk some three times stronger.

And most recently, Spectra fibre, a super strong polyethylene material that is already utilized in textile industry developed by Honeywell, is some 15 times stronger than steel. While applications for Spectra fibre has come down to rather uncool “storm curtains,” the material is pretty impressive.

The most successful effort at creating cheap, yet awesomely strong material, is Buckypaper. Florida Advanced Center for Composite Technologies (FAC2T) is currently working with Buckypaper, in an attempt to develop some applications for the hardy stuff.

Made of carbon nano-tubes, Buckypaper is twice as strong as diamonds, has thermal and current conductive properties, can be lit and potentially used as a screen material, and much much more.

So, maybe I cannot heal like Wolverine. Or grow tufts of hair like Logan. I can, however, enjoy some of the latest materials, looking forward to my new shiny curtains, and fantasize about my adamantium claws.